Phnom Penh’s head of police has told the capital’s 12 district police chiefs to be on the lookout for a group of citizen watchdogs who have been filming and stopping drivers who violate traffic laws and posting the videos online.
Chuon Sovann, municipal police chief, said members of the group, Humanitarian Force News, were interfering with traffic police officers’ duties. The group’s leader responded that they had the public’s safety in mind, but would obey the police’s directive to cease and desist.
Members of the citizen watchdog group Humanitarian Force News stop people driving against traffic in Phnom Penh, in this photograph posted to the group’s Facebook page on Sunday.“I want to inform all of the 12 districts’ police chiefs, please pay attention to civilians who try to implement traffic police officers’ duties,” General Sovann said in a recording sent to police chiefs on Wednesday and later shared with reporters.
By filming and stopping motorists who drive against traffic, do not stop at red lights or commit other traffic violations, the group was trying to do officers’ jobs, Gen. Sovann said.
“They cannot try to work as traffic police,” he added.
Khoeun Tola, the leader of Humanitarian Force News and an on-camera personality in the group’s live videos posted to Facebook, said on Thursday that his goal was to help ease roadway jams after seeing that many drivers had no respect for traffic laws.
“I have no intention to interfere with the traffic police’s duties,” Mr. Tola said.
His group of more than 170 volunteers only operated in areas where traffic police were not working, including Street 2004 near the intersection of Northbridge Street in Sen Sok district, he said.
“After I received the order [from police], if I continue, then I will face arrest or jail, so I will stop forever,” he added.
Despite new traffic lights being turned on around Phnom Penh in recent months, drivers are regularly seen speeding, running red lights and driving in the wrong direction down one-way streets—sometimes within police officers’ line of sight.
Pur Senchey district police chief Yim Sarann said the group’s vigilante video patrols could cause more danger on the city’s streets—and amounted to public shaming.
“Will they respond if an accident happens? When they stop people who are driving the wrong direction, people could turn to hit other people or cars,” Mr. Sarann said.
“They always do Facebook Live to show the people’s faces. It’s shames them,” he said.
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